The interwebs is inundated with “x questions you should ask before hiring a writer” type posts. Some of them are helpful, some of them are tongue-in-cheek, but none of them are helpful and tongue-in-cheek!
With that in mind, here’s my humble addition to the pile.
Without further beating around the ado, here are 6 questions you should ask your content writer before hiring them.
Do You Know my Thing?
Many writers claim that writing is hard. I disagree.
With a little practice and dedication, your sales head can churn out a few blogs and web copy easily. However, will it help you achieve your marketing goals? Will it entice your prospects throughout your funnel and motivate them to keep moving forward? If the answer is yes, and if your content goals aren’t all that important, you don’t need a writer, do you?
What’s hard is weaving a story that resonates with an audience using appropriate jargon without coming across as heavy-handed or overly salesy. Oh, and you want to sound intelligent and drive your audience to take certain actions as well. If that sounds like your marketing goal, asking your writer this question will save you a ton of time.
Don’t compound your problems by hiring someone who doesn’t speak the language of your business. You can hire a writer who churns out prose par excellence on the intricacies of the dining habits of Shakespearean characters.
However, those skills don’t mean they’ll be able to speak to your audience. Place a premium on your writer’s ability to translate instead of write. You need someone who can turn jargon into easily understood language and vice-versa.
During the interview, ask your writer to explain some concepts related to your industry, or your writer’s background, in plain language. Award them bonus points if they can help you understand something you didn’t know before.
Oh, and do yourself a favor and hire that person.
Do You Write Content and Copy? Or Just One of Them?
There are 2 levels to this question. First, does your prospective writer understand the difference between content and copy? Second, are they versatile enough to deliver both forms of writing?
It’s important to understand that not every writer automatically delivers great content and copy. Every writer has a preference, even if they excel at both. Some companies pressure content writers to create copy, and the results are about as bad as you’d expect.
Invest in expertise and allow your writers to succeed. At the very least, stay away from writers who don’t know the difference between these 2 forms of writing. I must point out: Just because a writer specializes in one form of writing, this doesn’t make them a bad writer.
If anything, it makes them more reliable since they know what they’re good at and won’t waste your time. Finding a writer who excels at both content and copy is great, but don’t expect every writer to automatically know the intricacies of both forms of writing.
You’re a FinTech Writer, but can You Write About Chakra Healing?
Every writer has one project that gets them curling into a ball of shame every time they think about it. Well, I’ve just revealed mine. What can I say? I was young, stupid, and my chakras were misaligned.
Niches are a big deal when it comes to writing. It’s impossible for anyone to consistently deliver high-quality work across all kinds of niches. Copywriting in non-technical niches is an exception.
However, when it comes to content writing, you’d be hard-pressed to find a writer who can jump across multiple unrelated niches and maintain high standards.
A writer that doesn’t have some kind of a niche is someone who isn’t focused on delivering quality. Often, inexperienced writers jump across niches chasing the highest pay rates. You’re unlikely to receive high-quality work from such writers, never mind before deadlines.
Examine your prospective writer’s portfolio and ask them if they produce work outside of their primary niches. Ask them why and their motivation behind refusing to niche down. A good writer will often niche in some way or another, even if it isn’t through an industry. You’ll find writers that produce just web copy, or just whitepapers, and so on.
However, stay away from writers who produce all forms of content for every industry and vertical imaginable.
How do you Approach a Project?
Here’s a fact that many companies ignore when hiring writers: The two of you might not be a good fit (it’s not you, it’s them). The key to understanding how well you fit together is to understand their work process.
Do they prefer to get all of their work done in a single batch and pass it onto you, or are they okay with spreading work out and delivering collateral according to your project schedule? There’s no single good answer here, you want to evaluate your prospective writer for fit.
If you need to deliver their collateral to your in-house designer, perhaps a delivery schedule that’s spread out will make more sense. If you want to get all work in before a deadline, then a bulk delivery method might work.
Interviewing is an integral part of the content creation process, and it’s important to evaluate the kinds of questions they ask you. Will they be able to elicit the right responses that can get their copy to pop? Or will you have to correct their work and tone down their content?
Some writers prefer to simply write and don’t enjoy the interviewing process. Again, there’s no single good answer here. You need to screen them for your needs. Some teams prefer to hand a product marketing document over to their writers and leave it at that. Others require detailed interviews.
The bottom line is, you need to screen your prospective writers and check how flexible they are in terms of the way they work.
Better Questions, Better Work
A lot of the writer hiring process comes down to matching your needs to how a prospective writer works. These questions will help you screen prospects for fit, and you’ll end up hiring someone you genuinely enjoy working with.